Push for right talk on eating anxiety

SUPPORT: headspace Ballarat youth worker Alannah Candy wants regional young people with eating or body image concerns to know talking about it is a good first step. Picture: Kate Healy

SUPPORT: headspace Ballarat youth worker Alannah Candy wants regional young people with eating or body image concerns to know talking about it is a good first step. Picture: Kate Healy

HEADSPACE Ballarat youth worker Alannah Candy is urging young people who feel anxious about their eating habits to start talking.

Ms Candy said there was often a lot of personal shame and secrecy associated with eating disorders but talking with a person you trust could start to alleviate the shame, especially in regional areas where help was hard to find.

The message comes as on-demand streaming service Netflix releases a controversial portrayal of anorexia nervosa in a young American woman.

Leading mental health organisations, including headspace, have slammed the film To The Bone as a serious concern for at-risk men and women without the streaming service making clear where Australians can find support.

Ms Candy said clients seeking help with eating disorders in Ballarat tended to come in waves – usually more in general times of higher stress prevalence.

She said there was also a gradual increase in young men with body issues starting to turn to headspace Ballarat.

“We do see more young people coming in with disordered eating and it’s hard to say exactly why this may be,” Ms Candy said. “Certain stresses can be a trigger. The main thing is knowing your triggers...Often when a person wants to come out and start to talk, it can start start to alleviate some of the shame so turn to people you’re most comfortable with.”

Ms Candy said a doctor was often a good place to start, but for young people who were unsure they could start to find help online at eheadspace or dropping into headspace.

Butterfly Foundation, which specialises in eating disorders and negative body image, and headspace want to make clear one person’s story is not representative of all eating disorders.

Butterfly chief executive officer Christine Morgan said eating disorders were not lifestyle choices, they were neuro psychiatric disorders, a mental health concern, and it was important to seek help early.

Ms Morgan said the longer the condition is left, the more hard-wired the brain becomes in what was an illness with serious physical risks and an elevated suicide risk.

“In rural and regional areas, there can be a real lack of professional expertise in managing disordered eating – it’s not often taught to GPs (general practitioners) or psychologists 0 and there can be barriers to getting help,” Ms Morgan said. 

“But you can talk to someone who is trained to guide them to the right help and counselling support.”

For support: